- Scientific name: Ctenocephalides felis
- Size: 1/10th of an inch
- Color: Reddish brown
- Shape: Thin on top and tear-drop shaped from the side
- Found in: All states in the United States
What are they?
The cat flea is a pest insect that is sustained by it’s primary host, the domestic cat. This is one of the most abundant and widespread kind of flea in the world. This species of flea can also transmit disease and it is speculated that this is the species of flea that may be responsible for the spread of the Bubonic plague.
How can you tell you have them?
If your pet is exhibiting signs of irritation or you see small, dark brown specks on the floor around your pets’ bedding, your pet may have fleas. A good test is to comb your pet’s hair and examine the hairs that fall out on a white sheet of paper. If you see small, moving black or brown insects, it is a good sign that your pet may be infested with fleas. If your dog or cat is of a small size, enough of a flea burden can cause they to become mildly dehydration. So if your pet is exhibiting signs of skin irritation and has increased their fluid intake, it is also a good sign that your pet might have fleas.
What kind of environment do they like?
The cat flea has evolved to take advantage of every aspect of their domestic host’s life style. Once the female flea lays eggs on its host, the dry eggs fall to the place the animal rests and spends most of it’s time. The larvae feed on many different organic substances, but primarily on the dried blood that has been deposited in the host animals’ coat by the adult flea’s feces. Once the flea enters it’s pupal stage, it will not hatch as an adult until it is near a host animal. This means that the flea flourishes in the type of home environment where the dog or cat’s bedding is not often disturbed. The newly hatched flea will emerge in a matter of seconds and then begin feeding almost immediately.
The cat flea usually subsists on the domesticated cat, they can also live quite well on other carnivores and some omnivores. These pests cannot live off of a diet of human blood, but they can bite and cause allergic reactions in humans. Unfortunately, if the female flea can feed on a human host for at least 12 hours they can lay viable eggs, which can aid the spread of these pests to other households with females. Though their name is the “cat” flea, these fleas also are the main flea that infests dogs as well. Fleas have 4 different stages to their life cycle and the adult flea must feed on blood before they can reproduce.
What to do?
The most important way to control fleas is through prevention. Simply because it is cold outside does not mean that your pet is safe from infestation. Since many pet animals are at least partially indoor animals, this means that cat fleas have a year-round protected environment to continue their life-cycle. It is best to seek flea and tick prevention from a veterinarian and to treat your entire home if you find or suspect fleas.